For those Berwick supporters banging their head against the wall over the Coakley win, realize that the election didn’t have to be this way. Right now in our electoral system, you only need a plurality to win. In a race with 3 candidates, a candidate an win with just 34% of the vote. Likewise in races with more candidate, let’s say 6, a candidate can win with only 13% of the vote. This isn’t very democratic. Candidates are discouraged from running because they are worried they will be considered a spoiler, leaving us with a choice between candidates considered the lesser of two evil.
However, there IS a solution. Every year Representative Jay Kaufman files a bill for Ranked Choice Voting, also known as Instant Runoff Voting. Instead of filling a circle next to a single candidate, voters rank the candidates from most favorable to least favorable. If no candidate has a majority of the (1) votes, then the candidate with the least number (1) of votes is eliminated. Then the ballots from that candidate are awarded to the voters’ second choices. If a candidate still doesn’t have a majority, then the next candidate with the least number of votes is eliminated. This continues until a candidate has majority. It’s as if the “spoiler” was never in the race at all. This eliminates the spoiler effect and allows voters to vote their conscience. It also allows a more diverse pool of candidates to run, since they don’t have to worry about spoiling the race.
Unfortunately this proposal dies in committee every year at the State House due to fierce lobbying from Town Clerks, who don’t want to spend more resources on elections. Harry Truman once said “Whenever you have an efficient government you have a dictatorship.” Frankly it is sad that town clerks view efficiency as more important than the democratic process itself.
If you are frustrated with the outcome of this election, do something productive with your frustration and lobby your state legislators to pass Ranked Choice Voting. This is about the principles of democracy. People should be able to vote their conscience and not have to choose between a bad and a worse candidate. For more information on different types of voting check out Fairvote.org.